I recently sat down with Alanna Fallis (Twitter: @lanifallis), a communications professional who has just recently made a move in her career. Alanna shared how taking on new challenges and building her network has allowed her to grow in her career, and gave advice for others who are considering a transition into a new role. Read a summary of our conversation below.
Pencil Skirts & Punctuation (PS&P): Tell me a bit about your education and career path so far.
AF: I completed my undergraduate degree in Communications Studies at York University in 2011. I loved the smaller fourth year tutorial courses there, and the program increased my interest in communication theory. Thus, I felt encouraged to continue learning and exploring, and applied to graduate school programs in Ontario.
Between the third and fourth years of my undergraduate degree, I did a summer placement at GCI Group, a mid-size public relations (PR) agency in Toronto, where I was introduced to the PR industry. I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into, but enjoyed every minute of it. At first, when I overheard PR jargon in the office I had to Google it at my desk later so that I could keep up with the team! Over time, I thrived in the role, and loved participating in new business brainstorms and learning how to use the databases for tracking media coverage.
Before attending Ryerson University for post-graduate studies in 2011, I completed another summer internship with GCI Group. The work was tougher and projects were bigger, which was great, as it meant my team trusted me more! I gained confidence during the placement that turned into a steady growth period personally and professionally. I made media calls, wrote pitches and sent clients media monitoring reports. My career path became clear to me, and I decided to work in an agency after graduating from Ryerson. I truly felt that the PR agency setting was a place that I could constantly learn and grow.
I then completed Ryerson’s Professional Communication Master’s degree program in 2012. This was a fantastic experience full of combined professional and theoretical learning.
After graduating, I returned to GCI Group as a full-time Account Coordinator. Daily interactions with bloggers and writing pitches became second nature. I took advantage of every opportunity to do new tasks, even if they were above my level and beyond my job description. I tried to prescribe my role based on the work being done above me, dismissing the limitations of the tasks typically done at my job level, and working at the level of the role that I wanted to move into. This proved to be beneficial for my growth, as I soon received a promotion to the Consultant role. Several peers of mine were instrumental in my growth, allowing me to face challenges head-on and learn new skill sets.
Because of this fantastic experience, I was able to explore a new opportunity at Ryerson University in a communications and event management role, where I would be directly involved in the branding and strategic communication planning in the Dean’s office in the Faculty of Arts. The new adventure started in July 2014 and I anticipate it will be full of continuous learning experiences and professional growth opportunities.
PS&P: Transitioning from one job to another can be nerve-wracking for some people. What tips would you give to make the move easier?
AF: Never stop learning, exploring or experimenting. Be willing to share your knowledge from your previous role with the team at the new organization. I also think that an open-mind and the eagerness to try new things can help to smooth the transition.
PS&P: Would you say relationships are important in helping to shape your career path?
AF: Totally. Networks are a key element of shaping one’s career. Some relationships can veer your career towards a path they may not have considered otherwise. Relationships are a key resource in the “career toolkit.”
PS&P: What advice would you give for expanding your network and professional relationships?
AF: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. For example, reconnect with former colleagues, or cold-email people you’ve never worked with before. In my experience, more times than not, there is someone willing to help at the other end of the email you’re sending, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Also, leverage your strong relationships and introduce people in your network to each other. For example, if Bob at Bell wants to know Roberta at Rogers, offer an introduction and help them build their professional relationships. Chances are, it will likely help you expand your network too!